Sweet Briar rider qualifies for IHSA Nationals in USEF/Cacchione Cup

Makayla Benjamin
Makayla Benjamin qualified for IHSA Nationals last weekend.

After competing in Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association Regionals and Zones over the past month, Sweet Briar senior Makayla Benjamin has qualified to compete for the prestigious USEF/Cacchione Cup at IHSA Nationals in Harrisburg, Pa.

The USEF/Cacchione Cup is awarded to the national individual hunter seat high-point rider each year.

Benjamin is one of 24 riders from across the nation qualified to compete for the USEF/Cacchione Cup, with three riders coming from each of the eight regions across the nation. She will compete against riders from schools across the country, including Stanford, Georgia Tech, Tufts and Penn State.

The last Vixen to compete at nationals in the USEF/Cacchione Cup was Olivia Smith in 2014. Smith placed ninth overall after scoring a total 162 points, with 77 points in phase one and 85 in phase two. Benjamin joins Smith and Jodie Weber as Sweet Briar riders to have competed for the USEF/Cacchione Cup since 2006. Weber finished fourth in 2006, while Smith finished 33rd in 2013 and ninth in 2014.

Benjamin qualified thanks to her performance at the Zone 4 show, hosted by Virginia Tech in Greensboro, N.C. She came in fourth in open fences and seventh in open flat. Jade Ashley ’20 was third in walk, trot. Joining Benjamin from Zone 4 at nationals will be Cary Hundley of Goucher and Sabrina Vlacich of St. Andrews.

As a team, the Vixens finished fifth in Zone 4, with only nine points separating them from the champion, St. Andrews. Virginia Tech was the reserve champion.

In the team competition, Benjamin placed fifth in open fences and second in open flat. Jules Sudol ’18 and Lily Peterson ’21 both scored a third place — Sudol in intermediate flat and Peterson in intermediate fences. Katie Balding ’21 came in second in novice flat and novice fences. Abbey Narodowy ’20 was fifth in walk, trot, canter, while classmate Cassie Mills scored a fourth-place finish in walk, trot.

IHSA Nationals are scheduled to begin on May 3 and conclude on May 6 in Harrisburg, Pa.

Final IHSA Zone 4 team standings:

Champion: St. Andrews University (39 points)
Reserve Champion: Virginia Tech (36 points)
Third: Goucher College (32 points)
Fourth: Randolph College (31 points)
Fifth: Sweet Briar College (30 points)
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